The Idaho Senate has voted 30-5 to override Gov. Butch Otter’s line-item veto of substance-abuse treatment funds in SB 1458, a supplemental appropriation in which Otter axed $2.4 million for treatment in the current budget year. “We believe that we can show that the money is being spent effectively, and it is saving taxpayer dollars and lives,” Senate Finance Chairman Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, told the Senate. The issue now moves to the House.
Sen. Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, silenced the Senate with a heartfelt story about his niece, who became addicted to methamphetamine. “Melissa’s teeth are rotting out of her head because of meth use,” Hill said. “Her bright eyes have turned into hollow cavities in her face. She married a young man while he was out on parole and then she wondered why her marriage hasn’t worked out.” But the young woman got into drug court, and got treatment, Hill said. “She has a job, she’s supporting herself and her little boy. … There’s a light back in her eyes that was gone for a long time. I’ll always be grateful to the people of Idaho for saving my niece.” He told the Senate, “I have thousands of reasons to support this … and every one of them has a face and a name and a family, and I believe a purpose for living.”
Eighty percent of the $16.8 million in treatment funds that Otter vetoed in two bills, SB 1458 and HB 608, are for drug treatment for participants in drug courts and those on probation or parole. No action has been taken yet to override the veto of the House bill. Cameron said without the funds, 3,207 Idahoans would have to forego treatment in the coming year. If all of them were incarcerated instead, that’d cost the state $67 million a year.
“Enough is enough – we’re tired of paying for people to be in prison,” Cameron said. “Doesn’t it seem smart to try and treat those individuals while they’re incarcerated so that they don’t reoffend? Doesn’t it seem smart to try to affect those individuals before they’re incarcerated so that they don’t offend in the first place?” He noted, “This budget isn’t an increase – this is a maintenance. … We couldn’t afford to do more than we did this year. … So the question before you is, do you want to maintain the effort that we’ve started over the last couple of years or do you want to slide backwards? … This isn’t easy, but it’s the right thing to do.”